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Councilman Urges HPD ‘Pull Back’ on Maunakea Patrols

November 5, 2019, 5:09 PM HST
* Updated November 5, 5:10 PM
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During the Hawai‘i County Council Finance Committee’s update on Maunakea spending Tuesday, District 5 Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder urged Hawai‘i County Police Chief Paul Ferreira to reduce patrols on the mountain.

Increased enforcement around the intersection of Maunakea Access Road and Daniel K. Inouye Highway, where the road has been blocked since mid-July by protesters opposed to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, has drawn attention from the public and lawmakers alike.

“My request is if we can really pull back,” said Councilmember Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder. “I’m urging you verbally to pull back.”

He added that he feels there is no way putting 15-20 HPD officers on Maunakea doesn’t have an impact on the community. Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder added he’s been told by many residents that several officers are too busy to even attend community watch meetings. He said the public were told officers are either on-duty or on the mountain.

Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder said his constituents are asking him to address concerns over public safety, lack of officers in the community and the police presence at Gilbert Kahele Park.

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Chief Ferreria responded by explaining that for every person who asks him to reduce police presence on the mountain, there is an equal response asking HPD not to reduce its numbers. However, Ferreria added that the number of officers patrolling the area was reduced between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1.

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Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder also expressed concerns about overspending and the chief-to-chief agreement made between Hawai‘i Island Police and Maui Police.

The total County spending for patrols on Maunakea has reached $4.89 million, which is up from $4.4 million in October.

Finance Director Deanna Sako told the Council Tuesday that a payment agreement between the State Attorney General’s Office and all other parties that have spent money on Maunakea since mid-July, including Hawai‘i County, has been signed. However, the payment from the State to the County has still not been made.

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Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder requested Sako provide an itemized list of spending related to Maunakea and TMT by each department.

Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela took the lead responding to the Councilman’s questions over the agreement to bring Maui police to the Big Island.

Kamelamela told Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder that the agreement allowed MPD to come and to exercise police power in Hawai‘i County and that mayoral oversight was not required.

The TMT protest at the base of Maunakea, by those known as protectors, started on July 15 when elders first blocked the roadway.

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